September 25, 2014

Cornell Broadens Hazing Prevention Efforts

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In light of National Hazing Prevention Week this week, University officials and student leaders have outlined efforts to broaden hazing reduction efforts and involve more student organizations in the coming months.

The Council on Hazing Prevention — a body made up of faculty, staff and various student representatives — was formed last spring to form educational strategies and review University policy on hazing, The Sun previously reported.

According to Travis Apgar, associate dean of students, a major purpose of the Council is to expand anti-hazing efforts beyond Greek life, which he said he believes has been the focus of most efforts following the hazing-related death of George Desdunes ’13, a new member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, in 2011.

“The goal is to really broaden the scope of our efforts that we have been working on in Greek life to the rest of the campus organizations,” Apgar said. “The council is made up of people from organizations that represent a very broad spectrum of student experiences, ranging from ROTC, a cappella groups, Student Assembly … certainly we have Greek life and Cornell athletics, but we’re also looking well beyond that.”

Cameron Pritchett ’15, president of the Interfraternity Council, agreed that hazing can take place in all kinds of organizations, including those outside the Greek system.

“Last spring, I co-authored a letter with my predecessor, Colin Foley [’14], to all IFC presidents explaining why the institution of hazing had to be completely eradicated,” Pritchett said. “Although hazing is certainly not a solely Greek issue, it is our responsibility to lead the campus in the right direction.”

In a Perceptions of  Undergraduate Life and Student Experiences Survey conducted by the University in spring 2013, 82 percent of Cornell students who participated in the survey agreed with the statement that “it’s never okay to humiliate or intimidate new members of a group, team or organization.”

According to Tim Marchell ’82, associate director for health promotion and director of mental health initiatives at Gannett Health Center, Gannett plans to spread this statistic in a “social norms” marketing campaign in partnership with Greek houses.

“We’re trying to foster a dialogue about what constitutes respectful and appropriate ways to welcome new members to organizations and what types of practices constitute hazing,” Marchell said.

Pritchett added it is important to show that “the vast majority of Cornell students do not believe hazing is acceptable.”

“At times, people fall victim to the belief that ‘everyone else is okay with it,’ when in reality, this simply is not the case,” he said.

According to Pritchett, National Hazing Prevention Week also serves as a reminder for the damage hazing can cause students.

“Hazing Prevention Week presents an opportunity to reflect on progress our system has made on this complex and challenging issue,” Pritchett said. “Hazing can impose a mental, physical, and physiological risk to individuals.”

It is important that hazing prevention remain a University-wide effort, according to Marchell.

“We’ve been working on hazing prevention on several fronts over the years. It’s important to take all of those strategies to the next level,” Marchell said. “It’s particularly important for people to understand that hazing is not simply a fraternity or sorority issue. We want the entire campus to understand what constitutes hazing and what people can do if they’re concerned about it happening.”

Anushka Mehrotra contributed reporting to this story.